Sadrak: bush Hip Hop pioneer

About fifteen years ago, I was a young student at Chevreul high school in Douala. Of my two years at that school, the thing I remember most were the parties at the end of the academic year where pupils were able to express their various passions and their creativity. We were a long way from the interminable lessons.

I remember my brother Larry, who was on course to become an IT engineer but was more enthralled by mostly French rap and hip hop music. However, at home he’d always talk to us about a trio called Les Négrissim'.

The hip hop crew appeared on the African rap landscape over twenty years ago in Yaoundé. They’d freestyle on Nadine Patricia Mengue’s holiday TV show and meet at Krotal’s studio, another star of the African rap scene.

Negrissim’ became the specialist of bush hip hop with a cultural authenticity that you cannot find anymore. All this helped enhance the trio’s identity. In 1999 they released their first album, “Appelle Ta Grand-mère” (Call your grandma), a work deemed by Jeune Afrique to be one of the best African Hip Hop albums. I wanted to introduce one of the members of this group who lives in Douala: Sadrak.

Before meeting with him, I gave him a call. This is what he said to me: “When my phone vibrates, I know it’s someone important who’s calling me”. I reminded him that I’m not the one who travelled the world presenting his bush art! We agreed to meet in the Bali district at Kiki Elame’s bar, the place all artists in Douala congregate. That evening you could run into Lady B, the country’s number one female rapper, or the guitarist and slammer Marcy Essomba. We ordered lemon and honey tea, he chose to add a little ginger to his.

We spent the next five hours chatting. We talked about his work, his career, his dreams, Cameroon as the Presidential elections drew near, returning to the home country and today’s youth. Sadrak is a big dreamer; in his world everything would be beautiful, wonderful, perfect. He therefore has a little trouble finding his place in a world he sees as too flawed.

He is one of the founding fathers of Hip Hop in Cameroon. When he appears on television, in concert, he opens people’s minds. He’s a rapper, a singer, an author, a great composer (Jovi, Lady B, Dynastie le tigre…) and a poet.

In my conversation with Sadrak, I wanted to know why, despite his group’s success, each of them – especially him – chose to leave their home country. He told me that it wasn’t the easiest decision to make, but that possibilities were limited in Mboa (Cameroon). There was also a pan-African ambition, a desire to gain inspiration from all around the world and also obtain more funds to do greater things. Censorship and a thirst for freedom were also reasons that kept coming up.

Being there with Sadrak over tea made me think of all the talented people in Cameroon who don’t leave their country, through choice but mostly through spite. In his case, he knew he was leaving in order to return stronger, with more self-confidence, bigger and more prepared to face the future. He laid down his hat in Dakar after stopping off in Burkina Faso, Nigeria, France and Japan before finally coming back home.

When I asked people in the bar we were in what they thought of the artist, everybody had something to say: “He’s great at playing with words”, “He knows the country well”, “He’s a very cultured person”, “He has a thousand ideas an hour”, “He loves to see people create and grow together”, “He’s a patriot”, etc.

In the meantime, Sadrak is looking for something concrete. Currently, with a friend based in Paris, he is putting together a video clip for one of his songs that is creating something of a buzz online: “Le petit chanceux”. In September he hopes to release an album called “Puzumpugu”. “It’s the name of a flower that grows in Ouagadougou that healed me when I was ill in Burkina Faso. I’ve also seen some in the Sine Saloum region of Senegal and, more recently, in northern Cameroon. An old sage told me that pregnant women would lie with this flower under their pillow to avoid a painful delivery”, the artist explains.

He hopes that this album will popularise bush Hip Hop. Sadrak wants to create a COEURITOIRE (a portmanteau of the French words for heart and territory) where the world will speak with its heart. “I hope that, with “Puzumpugu”, the world will move to the beat of bodily energy and that my music will heal our souls”, he ends.

I told you he was a poet! You can discover his work via his Facebook profile.


Amee: an Ivorian slam poet

Amee defines slam as a poetic performance or, more simply, spoken poetry. “There’s also a French-language definition that isn’t mine but I totally agree with it because it’s self evident: Scène Libre Aux Mots [open mic for words]”, she says. Slam poetry was born in the United States, and it is undoubtedly that country that has the most female slammers because there are recurrent open mic events there.

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